The Pharmacy Technicians title conjures up visions of a supreme, introverted boffin, processing pharmaceuticals in a scientific lab, away from the public gaze. But in the community, pharmacy technicians really come into their own in busy public settings, where there’s strong demand for patient-facing interaction. Indeed, people skills and communication abilities sit among the core requirements for many a pharmacy technician.
When business gets brisk in a high street pharmacy, a space opens up between the pharmacist and the dispenser. A space in which a dispenser is not qualified to operate, but a pharmacist is not the most economical solution. That space is the preserve of the pharmacy technician.
The busier things are, the easier it is for stores to integrate pharmacy technicians into the mix. A tech can deal with some of the more labour-intensive aspects of a pharmacist’s role, leaving a pharmacist to cover the territory only a pharmacist can cover. That makes for very efficient running.
In smaller pharmacies, a technician is less likely to be needed, because a pharmacist will have the time to deal with everything above the dispenser’s remit – even including the dispenser’s remit at a very quiet chemist. This has, up until now, limited the available work for pharmacy technicians, and across England, Wales and Scotland, that’s reflected in the ratio of pharmacy technicians to pharmacists.
Since mid 2011, pharmacy technicians have been fully-fledged healthcare professionals, requiring GPhC (General Pharmaceutical Council) registration, and that means we can access accurate ratio statistics. This GPhC press release, from April 2016 shows the number of registered pharmacists standing at more than double the number of pharmacy technicians.
But as the pharmacy technician’s role is progressively fine-tuned to improve the efficiency of high street stores, the tech is becoming a more important part of the pharmacy team. The economy of employing a tech to fill that space between the dispenser(s) and the pharmacist speaks for itself, and the number of registered technicians has in fact risen by a higher percentage than pharmacists over the past few years.
THE TECHNICIAN’S ROLE
The pharmacy technician’s role varies according to the setting, and is markedly different in a hospital as compared with a community pharmacy. Whilst the pharmacy technician’s remit does have strict boundaries and official definitions, actual duties are likely to vary according to the needs of the individual business. Particularly in industry, the pharmacy technician really can be that archetypal pharmaceutical boffin, preparing or manufacturing medicines and treatments, behind the scenes.
But classic duties for a pharmacy technician in a community setting would include compiling prescriptions, assessing and accommodating the needs of walk-in patients, and providing over-the-counter advice. It’s the time-consuming stuff, which a patient would perhaps expect the pharmacist to take care of, but which a technician is sufficiently qualified to adopt whilst the pharmacist is otherwise occupied.
Pharmacy technicians are very good news for patients, because they can seriously cut down on waiting times, while still keeping the pharmacy running economically.
Whilst a pharmacist needs to be present to oversee the technician, there are still obvious commercial and operational advantages in that pharmacist delegating the labour-intensive tasks to a tech. It’s a great example of teamwork.
As pharmacies grow, and identify a need to increase their staffing efficiency, pharmacy technicians are likely to become a bigger and more critical piece of the jigsaw. But as the general importance of technicians grows, pressure increases on pharmacies to outsource cover for the role during absences. That’s when we start to see a rise in demand for locums.
The supply of locum pharmacists is already huge business across the UK, with the biggest agencies, such as Team Locum, handling an ever-rising mountain of bookings, year after year. This year has seen a particularly sharp increase in overall business at Team Locum, but the agency is not standing back to admire its success.
Sales and Operations Director Liam Byrne is now personally building a new, dedicated wing to supply pharmacy technicians, and at the time or writing he has a particular need for more locum techs in and around the Midlands.
More specifically, the area reaches from Birmingham down to Gloucester, and heading in the other direction up through to the Stafford area. Pharmacy technicians are also sought around Bristol, Oxford and Swindon, but the agency is looking to rapidly build up its base of technicians, so if you’re a tech interested in doing locum work, don’t hesitate to get in touch on 0121 451 2707, or head straight to the Team Locum sign-up page.
IS LOCUM WORK WORTH CONSIDERING IF DEMAND IS RISING?
When demand increases, pharmacy tech locums are certainly going to be good news for locum agencies and their clients. But what about for the technicians themselves? Is locum work a good option?
Times of increasing demand are favourable for new locums. We saw in our Locum Science: Supply and Demand post, how shrewd a tactic it is for locums to get in early. But as the sphere of work gets bigger, the choice of locums becomes wider, and clients can settle on preferred choices, making it harder for newcomers to get a ‘foot in the door’.
The best answer, though, may simply be for interested parties to give locum work a try. One of the great advantages with locum work is that the locum sets his or her own timetable. Typically, the locum will indicate their availability to an agency, and the agency will seek to book work for them on available days.
Under these circumstances, it’s feasible for some healthcare professionals to try out locum work, without necessarily making any drastic decisions regarding their current employment. A lot of locums start by locuming one day a week – on their day off. Many do, admittedly, find the additional freedom irresistible, and commit to locum work full time, but they don’t necessarily have to commit to that from the off.
There looks to be a very exciting future ahead for the pharmacy technician who makes good career choices. And locum work is a very, very, flexible choice.